A Jewish state school that illegally segregates boys and girls is planning to form a multi-academy trust so that it can split itself into two single-sex schools rather than integrate its pupils.
The decision of Yesoiday Hatorah School, an 881-pupil primary academy in Prestwich, Manchester, follows a 2017 Court of Appeal ruling that an Islamic school’s policy of segregating boys and girls was unlawful sex discrimination.
Yesoiday Hatorah principal Jonathan Yodaiken told Tes that when it considered its response to the judgement, the Department for Education had said that “the obvious solution” was to form a multi-academy trust and create two single-sex schools.
He said the MAT could be operating as early as May. However, an Ofsted inspector has accused the school of acting unlawfully by still segregating pupils during breaks and lunchtime ahead of the change.
The letter from inspector Sue Eastwood, published last month following a short inspection in December, says: “Despite the plans for structural changes, leaders and governors have not put sufficient opportunities in place to allow boys and girls to mix in unstructured times.
“Segregation at these times is detrimental to pupils and is therefore unlawful.”
However, she noted that boys and girls receive the same standard of education, and the school had “similarly high expectations for both sexes educationally”.
Dr Yodaiken said that Ms Eastwood’s letter was the first time the school realised its policy for pupils during break and lunchtimes was unlawful.
He said: “We were told [by the DfE] that in the interim there was no other point we had to do. There was no question of creating a time for socialisation. That wasn’t advised. What was advised was ‘go for the MAT’.
“There was an email from the department, which stated that, in the interim, before schools got their act together, there would be no penalisation of schools that were not changed over.”
Ofsted’s letter tells the school to ensure that boys and girls have opportunities to socialise together, “including at unstructured and informal times of the school day”, and continue its plans to establish two separate schools for boys and girls.
Dr Yodaiken said the school was considering how to address the first point but was also seeking legal advice about it.
He emphasised that Ofsted said the school remains “good”, and that the inspector praised the school’s curriculum and made no recommendations about the quality of education.
Last week Luke Tryl, Ofsted’s head of corporate strategy, told MPs that the inspectorate was frustrated that it did not “get the support we need” from the rest of government for its work on equalities issues.
He told that Commons Women and Equalities Committee last week that that Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham, which was at the centre of the 2017 Court of Appeal case, had not yet desegregated.
And today, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman told the Commons Education Select Committee that the inspectorate was not pursuing an “anti-faith” agenda.
The Department for Education was approached for comment.